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Stealing Light

(The Shoal Sequence #1)

3.71  ·  Rating details ·  3,135 ratings  ·  151 reviews
For a quarter of a million years, an alien race has been hiding a vast and terrible secret

In the 25th century, only the Shoal possess the secret of faster-than-light travel (FTL), giving them absolute control over all trade and exploration throughout the galaxy. Mankind has operated within their influence for two centuries, establishing a dozen human colony worlds scattere
Paperback, 400 pages
Published June 1st 2008 by Pan Macmillan (first published 2007)
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Average rating 3.71  · 
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Dirk Grobbelaar
I am glad to see the likes of Neal Asher writing a review for this novel here on Goodreads. In fact, if you've enjoyed Asher's Space Opera novels, you'll probably enjoy this too. I certainly did.

I am a sucker for stories that feature derelicts, alien or otherwise. I usually enjoy the exploration and sense of wonder that normally accompanies this theme. Add to that a dose of high octane action, interesting aliens, a millennia old secret that is very deadly, lots of cool tech (I especially liked t
May 11, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: sf
Heinlein was a nutter.

Iain Banks is the best.

That's what I learned from this book.

Trouble is, I already knew Heinlein was crazy and Banks single handedly saved hard SF from extinction.

The main problem I had with this book is that it kept making me think about other SF authors' works instead of Gibson's own. Let me explain...

There's a society based on an updated version of Spartan principles, which plays a central role in the story. It's not portrayed in an at all favourable light. This can't be
Neal Asher
Feb 24, 2012 rated it really liked it
And yet another one! I enjoyed Gary Gibson’s other books, Angel Stations and Against Gravity, so was looking forward to this. I wasn’t disappointed. It’s big meaty space opera combining many of the elements I enjoy. It’s dark, wide-screen, concerns survival-of-civilization events and is populated with the kind of smart and often nasty characters that have become a staple of present day space opera, with the addition, when it comes to the Shoal, of some particularly Banksian aliens. I particularl ...more
Jun 22, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: science-fiction
On your knees, human! Bow down in obeisance to your new overlords – a school of giant goldfish in levitating goldfish bowls!

What? You’re not ready to kneel before your fishy rulers? Well you’d struggle with life in Gary Gibson’s Shoal Sequence universe, where humanity has spread across the stars only with the permission and assistance of a bunch of very powerful space-fish.

In Stealing Light, the first in a series of four novels, we learn that in the 26th century The Shoal, an aquatic race of fi
Chris Berko
Nov 23, 2019 rated it really liked it
Hell yeah Gary Gibson, what an impressive sci-fi feast!
I've learned to trust certain authors over the years. A trust that no matter how confused I am or incoherent things may seem that all will be brought together and it will eventually make sense. What I sometimes forget or take for granted is that it takes time to build that trust and it usually doesn't happen in just one book. With this one book Gary Gibson has earned my trust. What I at first took to be a lack of planning or even just lazy w
Deborah Ideiosepius
This was without a doubt one of the best new science fiction (or space opera, if you prefer) that I have encountered in ages.

In Stealing Light we are introduced to the space faring world of the twenty fifth century where Faster Than Light travel has opened up the galaxy, but with a condition: Only the alien race the Shoal (yes, that is right, as in 'shoal of fish') have the FTL drive and humanity must rely on them for trade, exploration and all other travel related things or risk losing their ab
Jacob Proffitt
Jan 19, 2015 rated it did not like it
Shelves: sci-fi, unfinished
For me to enjoy a book, I find it helpful to have a reason to care for at least some of the characters in it. I failed to do so with this book, after about a quarter of the way through. All the characters I think we're supposed to care about are pawns in a degraded society to one degree or another and so far out of their depth that they can barely react, let alone act or form plans of their own. That they fail to even react with any degree of intelligence, grace, or purpose left me wondering why ...more
Dec 29, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: e-books, read-2014
4.5 Stars

I was already a fan of Gary Gibson before I picked up this novel as I have read a few of his newer releases. Stealing Light plays to all of my science fiction fantasies. This is a space opera with deep roots in the cyberpunk genre that makes me giddy. I would definitely be first in line to be a machine head.

Gibson has crafted a blast of a universe where faster than light travel is possible, only not by us, that is without being babysat by the aliens, The Shoal. This book has warp speed
Nov 05, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Here’s the setup. It is the 25th century. Humans have spread out across the galaxy by using faster-than-light technology from their only alien contact to date, an aquatic species named the Shoal, first met in the twenty-second century. The Shoal have generously donated the technology on the understanding that if it is copied all uses will be removed. As clearly interplanetary trade and expansion are connected to this, then Human cooperation is pretty much accepted. In the mean time, humans have ...more
Aug 04, 2013 rated it liked it

pg 152/603: Pretty easy read. Will take about 11 hrs. Seems more like a 300 page book.

pg 484/603: Finishing it up. I had stopped a while in the middle. The last 200 pages are picking up. There's a high body count.

pg 537/603: Almost done. It's really only an hour's reading left, the way the book is printed. It's the mystery that keeps me going. But is finding out the mystery at the end worth reading a whole book? This book might read better at night. There's kind of a horror feel.

All done. I like
Scott McElhaney
Oct 15, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Fans of Jack McDevitt would probably like this book. McDevitt writes cerebral sci-fi (more suspenseful, thought-provoking, and scientific-minded than the regular action-packed sci-fi) and if you are of this audience, you would definitely like this book. I state this because I think the only bad reviews are by those looking for the always enjoyable action-packed sci-fi... and there's nothing wrong with these people or their reviews - I'm a fan of those books too. I plan on reading the whole serie ...more
Mark Zieg
Jul 24, 2010 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: fans of Brin, Vinge, Herbert
Recommended to Mark by: saw it on a shelf...bought it for the jacket :-)
This was a pretty good beach-read sci-fi, but (at least the first volume) falls short of being a classic. Take Ghost in the Shell's Motoko Kusanagi (or a female Case, for you Neuromancer fans) and drop her in the midst of a fast-moving interstellar intrigue along the lines of David Brin's Uplift Saga or Vernor Vinge's brilliant Fire Upon the Deep, add in a few choice elements from Herbert's Dune and Philip José Farmer's lost classic The Unreasoning Mask, and you pretty much have it.

Sadly, this
Jul 28, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read_2009, genre-sf
Second re-read - July 09 after first read on original publication; started Nova war and 100 pages in I realized I wanted to re-read this one first; the story of Dakota Merrick, Trader of the Shoal and Corso of Freehold as well as the rest of superbly imagined characters is new space opera at its best with all that you want and the re-read just showed once more why the novel was my top sf novel of 07
Jan 02, 2014 rated it liked it
3.5 stars. A fresh, speculative look at galactic--even super-galactic--technology, history and politics, but grounded in the experiences of fully realized individual characters. That everyone pretty much hated and distrusted everyone else created instant tension and plot motion. Good writing, though the flashbacks within flashbacks complicated tracking who did what to whom.

The usual SF quibbles about instant communications and understanding of technologies and thought patterns of vastly disconn
Kristi Jones
Aug 19, 2012 rated it liked it
From the blurb this book sounded just my cup of tea. Unfortunately it's bogged down with a cast of one-note characters and poorly chosen language. Every action scene is dogged by repetition of key words, things keep 'literally' happening, and I'm still wondering how something can be 'extremely inconclusive'. The book would have benefited from a ruthless editor to cull the extraneous adverbs and keep the idioms to a minimum. That said, I felt the flashbacks were the strongest part of the book.

Sep 22, 2011 rated it liked it
I found the galaxy-spanning storyline around the Shoal is strangely reminiscent of the Dwellers (The Algebraist by Iain M Banks) and Pierson's Puppeteers (Fleet of Worlds by Larry Niven & Edward M Lerner).

However, I do feel that this particular novel needed some refinement, as the writing tended to come across to me as patchy and disconnected, especially when switching abruptly from first to third person. Overall it took away some of the enjoyment from the book as it was not a smooth read - a b
Sep 25, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: series
This book seemed to me a mixture of fantasy/sci-fi.That's because a lot of the space theories and devices which were great were never scientifically described.His world lacks in that department.Generally in my opinion the world wasn't very clarified.We didn't learn much about the consortium the shoals or even the human empire.on the other hand the premise was interesting and so were the ideas about the machine heads and the weapon FTL techonology.The characters were interesting and out of the cl ...more
Sep 16, 2015 rated it liked it
Finally got through this. What to say? Gibson at moments struck me as a consolation prize for the greatly-missed Iain M Banks, but no.
Perhaps an unfair comparison. Gibson does the kind of large-scale vividly-rendered mises-en-scene my space-opera-loving heart yearns for. Pretty well. The plot gallops along but the cardboard cutouts all these Very Exciting things are happening to never come to life and it's hard to care.
Gibson kept losing me but then I'd force myself to continue. To find out wh
Colin Taylor
Sep 09, 2013 rated it liked it
This is a strange read from beginning to end. The plot was either frustratingly obvious, with the characters piecing it together like a drunk attempting a jigsaw puzzle, or just confusing, with random leaps of logic. There were some great ideas in there, original and solid, but the delivery was a little off. It's also worth saying that I'd read the next in the trilogy, if only to find out what happens next as the ending a very abrupt (and a little daft). Not a bad holiday read.
Steven Stennett
Apr 24, 2015 rated it really liked it
Solid piece of science fiction. Creatures with gills are not widely viewed as supreme being, owners of the galaxy, and here lays a significant difference from my usual fare.

Mammal bias has a tendency to regard fish as fish, not very smart and not entities with the capacity to build, and maintain intergalactic community's.

I tip my hat, to such a simple use of a familiar alien, fish!!!!!
Jul 27, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Enthralling space opera.
I might have preferred a bit less torture / coercion / threat of violence.
Some elements of the back story / history which is revealed felt a bit too familiar from the "Revelation Space" universe by Alastair Reynolds.
I liked that the main villain had a Southern American accent.
Jul 17, 2016 rated it it was ok
I feel like I should really like this book. It's a space opera with daring smugglers and firefights and alien species and mysterious technology and plenty of action, and the main character is a no-nonsense female pilot. Or... at least she should be no-nonsense but somehow a lot of nonsense keeps getting mixed in. I really try not to be feminist about these things, but I'm really put off by how frequently she's described naked, or how often her anus is mentioned. I mean... we really needed that m ...more
May 12, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Dakota Merrick is a heroine I want to spend much more time with. Just as well, then, that there are two further books to enjoy in the Shoal trilogy. Great worldbuilding, individuals brought together, some against their will, to discover the mystery and power of an ancient derelict spacecraft entombed within a distant sea, a civil war brought to epic heights of danger, the Shoal itself restraining humans within their limits of space. Stealing Light is an accessible science fiction feast of a nove ...more
The book starts with an OK premise, but the narrative weakens as the story progresses. The ending is a shambles; I felt I deserved more after 400+ pages.

And I docked half a star off my rating because the author didn't seem to know the difference between a nova and a supernova - hmph.
James Cox
Jul 05, 2015 rated it really liked it
I enjoyed this book. The best part was the world building the author created. I look forward to the next book!
Dec 05, 2019 rated it really liked it
This took a couple of chapters to get going, with some unexpectedly clunky over-description which tighter editing would have sorted out.

Don't be put off though: after a couple of chapters the writing settles right down and Stealing Light hits its stride, becoming an imaginative and hugely entertaining noirish romp, with a proper sense of jeopardy, dashes of wry wit, and nice layering of inter-personal and cultural plots within a potentially universe-spanning larger stage. There's a consistency a
Sep 16, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science-fiction
Great start to the series. I have not read anything by this author before but this book won me over to finding more written by him. To start, I'll definitely be continuing on with the next in line for this series. I really enjoyed the imaginative world building in particular. There was a fair bit of history and politics that unfolds as the book continues. My one big complaint was that it took me a while to figure out what the heck was going on. There was a lot of jumping around between character ...more
Sahil Udani
May 01, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: science-fiction
This is a nice fast paced book which reminded me of the star trek voyager series. There is a lot of magical super technology involved, races which spans millions of years etc and a gray human culture. The story is a classic sci-fi to keep you interested in what happens next. I haven't read other books by Gary Gibson so give him the benefit of doubt of creating flat characters for whom you don't feel a thing, however the story is fast paced with a good mix of partly explained science magic, the k ...more
Dec 31, 2018 rated it did not like it

A complete lack of pacing - every plot point is thrown at the reader with no groundwork, no build up, with the result that nothing has any dramatic weight. There are spots where it feels like a critical scene was left on the cutting room floor; e.g a character has knowledge that they seemingly shouldn't have.

Characters rush through all interactions with wild shifts in attitude between individual lines and are mostly violently hostile towards each other regardless of whether it fits thei
Martin Waterhouse
Dec 28, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: audio-books, scifi
This was a wonderful 15 hours of pure audiobook escapism, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. There's plenty of action, and the twists and turns in the plot keep the characters on their toes. The writing is fairly straight forward but Charlie Norfolk narrates it wonderfully and got me totally hooked so I'll definitely be carrying on with the trilogy.
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Gary Gibson's first novel, Angel Stations, was published in 2004. Interzone called it "dense and involving, puzzling and perplexing. It's unabashed science fiction, with an almost "Golden Age" feel to it ..."

His second novel was Against Gravity in 2005; the Guardian described it as "building on current trends to produce a convincing picture of the world in 2096."

Stealing Light was first published

Other books in the series

The Shoal Sequence (4 books)
  • Nova War (The Shoal Sequence, #2)
  • Empire of Light (The Shoal Sequence, #3)
  • Marauder

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